Dan Schlossberg's Weekend Notebook: Royals Race Toward History • Latino Sports

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Dan Schlossberg’s Weekend Notebook: Royals Race Toward History

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For the second time in baseball history, two wild-card winners will meet in the World Series.

Also for the second time, the San Francisco Giants will be one of them.

And finally for the second time, the Giants are not likely to prevail.

Having the home-field advantage would be enough of a help to the Kansas City Royals even if they hadn’t caught fire at precisely the right time.

Jon Lester switched teams in a July trade but didn't last long in the playoffs

Jon Lester switched teams in a July trade but didn’t last long in the playoffs

Something clicked during the sudden-death match against the Oakland A’s in the American League’s wild-card game. Rebounding from a 7-3, eighth-inning deficit against star southpaw Jon Lester, the Royals convinced themselves they were not just a young-and-hungry, one-and-down team.

They haven’t lost since.

They are 8-0 in this postseason and have an 11-game postseason winning streak that stretches all the way back to the 1985 World Series. No team has ever won more than a dozen, with the prolific New York Yankees have reached that mark several times.

A blend of youth, speed, defense, and pitching, the Royals hit the least home runs in the major leagues in 2014. But they connected as needed in the playoffs.

Moreover, their bullpen has been the most impenetrable force since Hitler unleashed his blitzkrieg on Europe in 1940.

Home-field advantage should help the Royals in the World Series

Home-field advantage should help the Royals in the World Series

These Royals can run — they led the majors in stolen bases and have several speed merchants resting on the bench for late-inning situations that can turn a game in their favor. A stolen base here, a forced error there, a wild pitch by a nervous opposing pitcher, a passed ball by a rival catcher, a bad throw intended to catch a thief on the bases — you name it, the Royals do it.

It’s been 29 years since Kansas City reached the World Series and even longer since a speed-and-defense team so dominated the postseason. The Royals play WhiteyBall without Whitey Herzog, their one-time manager who perfected the small-ball techniques that took the St. Louis Cardinals to the zenith of baseball success in 1982.

This year, the Cards collapsed after the Giants won a five-game championship series and took aim at their third World Series title the last five seasons.

It ain’t gonna happen, folks.

Even though a long layoff, lengthened by Denver snows, zapped the momentum of the 2007 Colorado Rockies, these Royals are nothing like the team that won just 86 of 162 regular-season games.

This team has confidence that teamed lacked. Winning does that but winning one-run games in the late innings makes the experience even more savory.

For the Giants, it’s been there, done that.

For the Royals, it’s just a roller-coaster ride with no end in sight.

After beating the A’s, Angels, and Orioles, the Royals should have little difficulty dispatching the Giants. San Francisco’s pitching, from Madison Bumgarner to a collection of relievers who can’t hold a candle to the guys in blue, will have to be perfect to even have a chance.

San Francisco pitchers will have to be perfect to stop the Royals' speed game

San Francisco pitchers will have to be perfect to stop the Royals’ speed game

With every win, the Royals make history. The guess here is that their streak will continue, making them the first team of the playoff era to run the table. All they need is four more — even if they have to steal them.

Elsewhere around the majors:

None of the players traded on the July 31 trade deadline are involved in the World Series, though pitchers Jake Peavy (Giants) and Jason Frasor (Royals) were dealt to their current clubs a few days earlier . . .

Over a five-year span from 1967-80, the Royals lost three ALCS series to the Yankees before finally beating them to win their first pennant . . .

Before the Giants did it this year, the only team to reach a World Series twice as a wild-card was the then-Florida Marlins (1997, 2003) . . .

The Fish won two of the five world championships won by wild-card teams since MLB introduced the concept in 1995 . . .

The only previous World Series involving two wild-card winners was the Giants-Angels match of 2002, won by Anaheim in seven games . . .

Half of the 10 wild-card winners that advanced to the final round won the World Series . . .

Long layoffs between playoffs and World Series contributed to defeats by the 2006 Detroit Tigers and 2007 Colorado Rockies . . .

KC general manager Dayton Moore did a masterful assembly job

KC general manager Dayton Moore did a masterful assembly job

Royals GM Dayton Moore, who grew up in Wichita, often drove I-435  to Kaycee to catch Royals games . . .

Who could have guessed that Travis Ishikawa, who started 2014 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, would hit the first home run to end a National League Championship Series? . . .

San Francisco third base coach Tim Flannery plays in a band called the Lunatic Fringe . . .

The Texas Rangers owe overweight slugger Prince Fielder, who missed the entire 2014 season, $144 million in a contract that carries the first baseman through 2020 . . .

Texas needs an outfielder, second baseman, and catcher plus pitching help but may be willing to deal third baseman Adrian Beltre, a free agent after 2015 . . .

Much-respected Kevin Long, surprisingly desposed as hitting coach by the Yankees, is a candidate for the same job with the rival Red Sox and cross-town Mets . . .

Washington is keeping a wary eye on three mainstays eligible for free agency after next season: starting pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister plus shortstop Ian Desmond . . .

Jordan Zimmermann is a free agent after 2015 Photo by Bill Menzel

Jordan Zimmermann is a free agent after 2015
Photo by Bill Menzel

Chip Hale (Diamondbacks) and A.J. Hinch (Astros) might have been surprise selections as 2015 managers but not nearly as shocking as Jeff Banister (Rangers) . . .

Minnesota doesn’t know whether Danny Santana, a 2014 surprise at age 23, will be at short or center next season but does plan on keeping him in the lineup . . .

Had Seattle’s owner not nixed the virtually certain off-season signing of slugger Nelson Cruz, the Mariners might be facing the Giants in the World Series . . .

Boston is betting that Mookie Betts will break into its revamped 2015 lineup . . .

Hurting for speed, the Atlanta Braves should consider bringing back injury-prone free agent infielder Rafael Furcal to play on either side of Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons . . .

When Jose Fernandez heals from Tommy John surgery, he’ll head a powerful Miami rotation that also includes Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, Jarred Cosart, and Tom Koehler.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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  • Julio Pabón

    Very good analysis, however, I don’t know if the Royals are going to win this one? No matter who wins, it will be a very good series to watch.